• The Personality Brokers

  • The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing
  • By: Merve Emre
  • Narrated by: Ellen Archer
  • Length: 11 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 09-11-18
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars (42 ratings)

Regular price: $28.00

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Publisher's Summary

"Inventive and beguiling... The Personality Brokers is history that reads like biography that reads like a novel - a fluid narrative that defies expectations and plays against type." (New York Times)

"Riveting [and] far-reaching... [Emre] brings the skills of a detective, cultural critic, historian, scientist and biographer to bear on the MBTI and the two women who invented and promoted it." (Wall Street Journal)

An unprecedented history of the personality test conceived a century ago by a mother and her daughter - fiction writers with no formal training in psychology - and how it insinuated itself into our boardrooms, classrooms, and beyond.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most popular personality test in the world. It is used regularly by Fortune 500 companies, universities, hospitals, churches, and the military. Its language of personality types - extraversion and introversion, sensing and intuiting, thinking and feeling, judging and perceiving - has inspired television shows, Online dating platforms, and Buzzfeed quizzes. Yet despite the test's widespread adoption, experts in the field of psychometric testing, a $2 billion industry, have struggled to validate its results - no less account for its success. How did Myers-Briggs, a homegrown multiple choice questionnaire, infiltrate our workplaces, our relationships, our Internet, our lives? 

First conceived in the 1920s by the mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, a pair of devoted homemakers, novelists, and amateur psychoanalysts, Myers-Briggs was designed to bring the gospel of Carl Jung to the masses. But it would take on a life entirely its own, reaching from the smoke-filled boardrooms of mid-century New York to Berkeley, California, where it was administered to some of the 20th century's greatest creative minds. It would travel across the world to London, Zurich, Cape Town, Melbourne, and Tokyo, until it could be found just as easily in elementary schools, nunneries, and wellness retreats as in shadowy political consultancies and on social networks.

Drawing from original reporting and never-before-published documents, The Personality Brokers takes a critical look at the personality indicator that became a cultural icon. Along the way it examines nothing less than the definition of the self - our attempts to grasp, categorize, and quantify our personalities. Surprising and absorbing, the book, like the test at its heart, considers the timeless question: What makes you, you?

©2018 Merve Emre (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“This is a sparkling biography - not just of a pair of remarkable women, but of a popular personality tool. Merve Emre deftly exposes the hidden origins of the MBTI and the seductive appeal and fatal flaws of personality types. Ultimately, she reveals that a sense of self is less something we discover, and more something we create and revise.” (Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg)

“An illuminating dual biography…Emre has dug deeply into published and archival sources to produce a deft, gracefully written account of Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers…a discerning history of the quest for self-knowledge.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“[Emre] tells the fascinating story of the origins of the world’s most widely used personality test…she is excellent at recounting how the MBTI began to sweep American institutions in the 1950s. [A] fine study.” (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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Loved Myers-Briggs Already - Wonderful Backstory

I've taken a life long interest in studying Personality Types. This book is a heart warmer, told romantically. A great choice for those who are attracted to the raising of children, homeschooling. This is the progression of Katharine Cook Briggs' natural interest in her family and children, observational learning of the neighborhood children, and keeping written accounts of all (not just her own). And it blew up from there. I was sympathetic to Briggs' inability to untie the apron strings to her adult daughter, Isabel Myers, yet she had raised her so well that the daughter was not desperate for her approval. I loved that no man could measure up to the ability of the matriarch of the 1900s to speak parenting so fluently as did Mother Briggs. The author portrayed both Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers as a couple of intense ladies and I loved the depiction. Both of their husbands seemed largely supportive of them through their crazy journey. This book could make a great movie, with Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, Hitler, Jean Piaget, John F. Kennedy, Nixon and the BFF of Isabel in her senior years making their appearances in this story. I'm inspired by the lives of these two women. Narration is excellent.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Sabrina
  • Saint Marys, Georgia, United States
  • 09-14-18

A biography that reads like a novel.

The book’s title ‘Personality Brokers’ was likely designed to target the U.S. market. It goes by the understated ‘What’s Your Type’ in the U.K. One might glean from reading the various online articles that the book would be a scathing, condescending view of the women. That’s hardly the case. The author does an excellent job of SHOWING how this mother-daughter team paved the way for the people who downplayed or tried to diminish their contribution to typology.

A few notes and mild spoilers:
Methodology: Katherine’s so called ‘non-scientific’ methods were sound. The author describes the details of her ethnographic record-keeping and the painstaking process Isabel faced trying to validate the instrument using the psychometric methods demanded of her. Most research using the MBTI shows statistically significant correlations between the dichotomies versus the MBTI type. Not looking to debate this point or get into a diatribe about cognitive functions. I just find it interesting that for all of the stress they put her through, this fact wasn’t enough. The BIG 5/NEO are similar with the added element of conscientiousness. Makes me wonder what was REALLY up.

Racism: There were some racial overtones in the instrument’s’ development. There was (is) a perception (by some) that people of color (darker races) were all Se. This actually comes from some of Jung’s early work. One of the researchers (not Myers or Briggs) actually makes a comment in a study that occurred when they had the opportunity to test a large African American population. “I hope they are all sensors”. CAPT keeps their stats online which shows no one has a monopoly on the NT temperament. This was something that was later acknowledged by Jung, all types can be found in all races/cultures but there may be some values that are held in higher esteem and therefore fostered for the good of the group. Isabel also wrote a book where a group of family members entered a suicide pact when they are lead to believe they have ‘negro’ blood. Without reading it, I would not assume that she’s advocating that mindset. My guess is that she was exposing the level of hate it would take to commit suicide to prevent “spreading those genes.” The book is not in publication.

Sexism: They were the equivalent of women in STEM today but the mindset of their time. They persevered.

Mysticism: There were elements of religion interspersed in the theory and it’s held that the initial goal of Katherine was to help people find their rightful roles to produce a better society.

Classism: They were middle/upper middle class women of their time oblivious to the plights of the lower classes. However they had their own demons. Both women lost children, experienced marital problems and felt the pull of wanting to pursue creative endeavors yet meet societal expectations of women of the time.

The author (and narrator) keep you captivated to the end.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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INTJ says...

Oh, how sad to know that the Meyers-Briggs was invented by a religious nut case and her equally crazy daughter.

When I took the test when I was 17, it changed my life. I wasn't a circus freak! It's just that I was one percent of the population. It described me so well. And it hasn't changed over all these decades.

I'm not sure what to make of test now, considering all I learned in this book, which was really quite interesting and detailed.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • MM
  • Minnetonka, MN
  • 11-11-18

A great read on what could have been a dull subject

This biography reads like a novel and probably because it portrays with honesty the fallibility of human condition and even of those who dedicated their lives to help us capitalize on our strengths. Surprisingly, the author -and perhaps unintentionally- manages to somehow validate the relevance of the MBTI and not because of its scientific rigor, but because it opens the door to inquiry.

#biography #typology #TagsGiving #sweepstakes

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If there was a negative value that would have been chosen

The worst diatribe of impartiality I’ve read in a very long time Terrible book by sanctimonious writer.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful